Genelabs Technologies Inc. on Wednesday said it hasintroduced the world's first commercially available diagnostictests to detect hepatitis E virus (HEV) infection in the AsianPacific Region.

The HEV ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) testsuse proprietary proteins, or antigens, to screen for antibodiesthat are markers of potential HEV infection. The tests aremanufactured by the Redwood City, Calif., company's(NASDAQ:GNLB) corporate partner, Diagnostic Biotechnology(Pte) Ltd. of Singapore.

Genelabs also said it has received a small business innovationresearch (SBIR) grant for $500,000 from the U.S. Department ofDefense to develop confirmatory tests for patients who havetested positive with an HEV screening test. Under the terms ofthe grant, researchers Chiao-Chain Huang and Patrice Yarboughof Genelabs will also focus on the development of screeningELISA's based on newly isolated antigens associated with HEV.

HEV is a water-borne virus most prevalent in Asia and Africa,where it is a leading cause of epidemic hepatitis. Cases havebeen noted in the U.S. due to increased travel and immigrationfrom endemic regions. Although it does not produce chronicliver disease, HEV is estimated to result in death in up to 20percent of pregnant women who contract it.

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